We are so happy to have Natalie of Belle Fleur Studio take over the ADP blog to talk about herself and her business! Her organic and bohemian style has been very popular with our lovely brides and we always enjoy the chance to work with her!
How and when did you get started in the floral industry?
First and foremost, I am not a traditionally trained Florist by any means and have zero interest in that. I went to school for painting and I really approach design with that approach in terms of texture and color. I began working with live materials as a concierge while working for a private individual in the Bahamas on an estate in 2008.
What attracted you to the wedding industry?
I first designed flowers for my best friend’s wedding in 2010 and it lit a fire in my heart. I loved the personalized touch to design that the format for client fulfillment demands for weddings and special events; it is a meeting of people, luxury, and emotion. It is beyond fun to get to know people, understand what they want to convey visually, and then make it happen! Chills, I love it!
Do you remember the first wedding you ever did?
It was my best friend Chrissy’s wedding. She was a DIY bride and I was literally saying “No way are you doing this all the day of your wedding!” Little did I know then, she knew I would never let her design her own flowers. At the time, her husband was in medical school and she was working at a bar to makes ends meet and support him. Let’s just say the people that know me best know the heart that is in this chest.
How long does it take for you to create your wedding arrangements? How do you keep the flowers fresh?
I work super close to the production date because I don’t believe in maintaining a high carbon footprint. This means I purchase, produce, and deliver within a short window. Generally, 36 hours is a an event design period.
I actually design backwards, smallest to largest. What I mean is this: my bouquets are my “tour de force,” I create them heavy on floral and on impact. I always start with the bride’s bouquet and I usually spend the most time with those elements. It means a lot that the bride will hold it close to their heart and have it on their person most of the day.
In terms of design and time, everything is dependent upon the mechanic–meaning complication of design or hand work. Smaller always takes longer.
How did you develop your signature style?
I love this question, but honestly I have no idea. I think style is something that can’t be taught, it is something that is recognized.
To date, what’s been your career highlight?
It continues to evolve for me, because I feel humble beginnings should yield extreme gratefulness for all accolades. Getting Creative Loafing’s “Best of the Bay” in 2014 didn’t hurt, but I feel like it just means I was doing something right and need to keep working hard.
What’s the biggest challenge in your field of work?
To be completely candid, I don’t feel like the old school industry, meaning “wedding industry,” got the blueprint right. I do not believe in stealing ideas, proposal undercutting, copying, or bad mouthing.
Much of what I have experienced to a degree of negativity in my field is a combo platter of the above and often times from the “big dog” in town. There is enough business and taste of client to create abundance. I believe in uplifting others and celebrating what every one has to offer. However, I am no push over and I take notes on who is who, and who has less than ethical business practices. In a way, perhaps I should be flattered, but I just ignore, keep to myself, and keep marching.
Favorite trends? A trend you wouldn’t mind seeing left behind?
I hate trends. Literally loathe them. To me trends often undercut the classic, the creative, and the imaginative element a designer can offer a client. Creating beauty and memories is not trendy in my book, it requires knowledge and thoughtfulness.
Cliché, but, favorite flower? And, favorite flower to work with?
Again, this evolves for me. I have become like a spiritual intuitive when it comes to the weather, the person, and texture of something. I love hearty flowers that stand up to the climate down here. I love the look of Peony, but often feel that it is a flower of inflated reputation. They underperform in our climate. Lately, I have been in the close company of obscure roses, not ordinary FTD varietals but the kind that “kick the heat’s ass” with stem stamina and petal power.
What flowers are in your favorite budget-friendly bouquet? A bouquet that has no expense (aka. All the money in the world to spend)?
My designs are all budget friendly. Money is objectionable to me. I prefer to use a client’s buying power to ensure the highest possible quality but also respect the people-before-profit equation. This means that I buy in season to this hemisphere 90 percent of the time and consider fair-trade agreements, climate change, and design aesthetic all at once. You are your business in my book and it does matter. So, for example, if someone came to me and demanded something out of season that had to come from 6 time zones away with no garauntee of being a rockstar varietal, I would probably send them to the big dog down the street.
Where do you look for inspiration?
La vie en rose…toujours! Belle Fleur is inspired by my time living in France always being able to afford a table bouquet. Luxury does not have to be exclusive or so unaffordable an ordinary person should not be able to enjoy it. This is very Parisian, so for me the French inspire my philosophy. Beyond the cultural, it is definitely live music, fashion, travel, nature, and textures in art, live or still.
How do you feel about a bride’s Pinterest board? Do you think it helps or hinders your creativity?
No comment… Ok, I will comment. It is a fantastic interface for creating a visual language but it also creates unrealistic expectations at times. I use it, I enjoy it, but I also understand the back end of what I do in the luxury game and it isn’t about ripping people off. One has to know much of what is in the image is editorial and from a source that doesn’t represent everyday affordability. I had my very first bridezilla, something that was shocking, offensive, and like an assault to some degree. This whole ordeal was largely due to Pinterest and the idea that anything and everything you see is not only within your budget, but can be ordered 12 hours before your wedding day. I have a whole client clause now dedicated to maintaining a state of grace, collaborative good will, and professional courtesy because of this unfortunate situation.
I have to ask, do you always have fresh flowers at home?
No. During wedding season, I keep plants for my color fengshui and in off season I take more time to create vignettes of fresh delight, but generally I am all about the client during season. I suppose this is part of being the one and only portion of Belle Fleur: you get all of me. That might mean I don’t do laundry the week of your wedding or have fresh Peony in every room.
Any big future plans for Belle Fleur Studio?
I am always planning, always pushing, always dreaming. I prefer not to share the future, lest it not come to fruition.
What do you like to do outside of work? Tell us a bit about yourself!
I love my friends and family so much. I love laughing, simple pleasures, and entertaining. It is in my Russian blood to have people over and cook, talk, drink, swear, whatever it takes to satisfy life’s hardships for the time being.
My passion is travel, language, art, food, and for a time, wine. All of these things have been shuffled and neglected to a degree since beginning Belle Fleur. Belle is my lover, baby, hated adversary, best friend, and livelihood: she demands constant attention.
Take a look at some of the fabulous weddings we have produced with Natalie’s amazing floral creativity!